If you’re afraid to get messy, you might be missing out.
As a “very particular pig,” Edward—who stands upright and is child-shaped except for his face, ears, and feet—can’t bear messiness. He lines up spray-bottle cleaners in a neat row; in the living room, he appears three times on the same page to diligently dust, vacuum, and straighten picture frames. He won’t eat spaghetti and meatballs or do art projects at school (and, indeed, spaghetti, meatballs, and paint fly through the air when his classmates get their hands on them). He even “vacuums his perfectly sparkling goldfish tank with a special underwater vacuum.” Edward’s manic, bug-eyed expression on that page and the capital letters that explain he “FEARS filth” scream that Edward doesn’t have a mere preference—he has anxiety. One day, he’s straightening a supply shelf when plop, splat, crash—paint goes everywhere. The text calls him “DEVASTATED,” but he actually looks just shocked, then nonplussed. Before long, he’s painting. Messes don’t scare him anymore, and everything from spaghetti fights to exploding science experiments is fair game. Stern’s colored-pencil illustrations are bright and friendly, though some grins look exaggerated.
This can’t approach Patrick McDonnell’s A Perfectly Messed-Up Story (2014) for anxiety about mess and chaos or Deborah Freedman’s Blue Chicken (2011) for glorious spills, but it’s a fine addition. (Picture book. 4-8)